Media Lifeline: Felix Dennis

The publishing magnate has always courted controversy as he built up his media empire.

1971: Felix Dennis had already raised his head above the parapet as the first man to say the C-word on British television. Now he acquires genuine notoriety as a defendant alongside Richard Neville and Jim Anderson in the Oz trial. He's found guilty of corrupting children; but in passing sentence, the trial judge, Justice Michael Argyle, is relatively lenient on Dennis, saying he's less intelligent and more easily led than his co-defendants.

1995: According to popular mythology, this assessment angers Dennis so much that he determines to prove Argyle wrong by thriving in business - and by 1995, when his publishing company launches Maxim, he's one of the richest men in Britain. He also takes up a new hobby: consuming lavish amounts of crack cocaine.

1999: But his hobbies (he has also been a heavy user of the services of prostitutes) take their toll and, following thyroid problems, he becomes very seriously ill. He pulls through - and, confined to a hospital bed, begins writing poetry, asserting later that this has played a major part in saving his life. But the episode also convinces him that he will not live beyond his 70th birthday.

2007: The publishing empire had expanded to embrace both sides of the Atlantic in the 90s, but now, citing adverse market conditions, Dennis sells most of his US titles, including Maxim, Blender and Stuff, to the private equity company Quadrangle Group for £121 million. It's something of a retreat - but he consoles himself by reading the sales figures for his latest book, a sensitively written poetic volume entitled How To Get Rich.

2008: The chattering classes threaten to have a hissy fit when Dennis, having consumed several glasses of wine during an extended interview with a journalist in the conservatory of his lovely Warwickshire home, boasts that he once killed a man by throwing him off a cliff. Dennis has since retracted the claim.

Fast forward ...

2017: Dennis celebrates his 70th birthday with another exclusive interview with a virtual newspaper in which he confesses that his high-speed lifestyle has actually always been a sham and that he's secretly been living a quiet, sober, celibate life in suburbia. His legendary excesses have, it turns out, been an elaborate marketing ploy to sex up interest in his media empire.

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